Jersey's care sector issues urgent plea for financial support

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A CALL to increase financial support for care providers has been issued by the sector’s representative body, following a stark report about the ‘potentially catastrophic’ risks posed to services in the Island.

The Jersey Care Federation has said government grants to help recruit employees from overseas – as well as making it easier for them to access healthcare – could help address the shortage of staff, which is causing bed-blocking at the Hospital and threatening the ‘survival’ of local providers.

In an email to Health Minister Karen Wilson, JCF chairperson Cheryl Kenealy also said the government needed to confirm an anticipated uplift in the contribution it pays to private care providers – through Islanders’ long-term-care payments – which is up to 1.5% of income. ‘This is the single biggest issue impacting our industry right now. It is directly adding to the delays and bed-blocking at the Hospital.

‘This is because many providers are currently reluctant to take on LTC clients, in order to protect their businesses from potential loss,’ she wrote.

The JCF has asked for a joint meeting with Deputy Wilson and Social Security Minister Elaine Millar.

The news comes after the Island’s independent regulator – the Jersey Care Commission – published a report warning that the supply of care staff was ‘failing to keep pace with demand’, posing a ‘potentially catastrophic risk’ to the Island’s care services.

In her email, Ms Kenealy also said the government had failed to provide direct support for the sector, and had instead ‘embarked on their own advertising schemes’ – arguing that this had been ‘costly and unsuccessful’.

Earlier this year, the government revealed that its Help at Home recruitment scheme had fallen short of its goal to recruit 100 new home-care staff by highlighting the benefits of being a carer in the Island.

The campaign was supported by £128,000 in fiscal stimulus investment and resulted in 33 Islanders being offered home-care roles, while a further 55 existing employees completed ‘upskilling’ training.

Ms Kenealy also called for the government to consider removing a requirement for overseas health workers to pay six months of social security before they can access healthcare.

‘The current rule creates an unwelcoming environment for overseas health workers, who have a lot of other options beyond Jersey,’ she wrote.

Speaking to the JEP, she added: ‘There is nothing in the [Jersey Care Commission’s] report that surprises me and there is nothing that the government should be surprised about either.

‘They are well aware of the problems we are facing but they do nothing about it.

‘With the lack of staff at the moment there is very little we can do to recruit on-Island,’ she continued, noting that it ‘cost a fortune’ to bring in employees from overseas.

‘We have an ageing population and the problem isn’t just going to go away anytime soon.’

She added that government grants for providers to bring in staff from outside the Island could help alleviate the issue in the short term.

Age Concern chair Ben Shenton said the care crisis was ‘somewhat government inflicted’, arguing that regulation within the sector had become ‘increasingly cumbersome, conflicted, and difficult to navigate’.

‘The obvious outcome of increased regulation in any industry, is that providers spend too much time ensuring compliance, taking them away from their primary mission, in this case of providing care. As soon as new regulations are issued a care provider must use clinical and non-clinical resources to decipher the regulations and then redesign, test, implement, and communicate new processes throughout the organisation,’ he added.

‘The problem is you cannot legislate for love, compassion, selflessness and common sense. The higher the standards the greater the costs. The higher the qualifications the smaller the [recruitment] pool.’

A spokesperson for Pinewood Residential Home said the Jersey Care Commission should be ‘commended’ for undertaking its report.

‘It is a true reflection of what’s going on and I think that everyone in the sector is frustrated,’ they added.

‘We have been working hard to educate the government.’

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